Take Your Food To The Next Level And Enjoy The Aromas
Herbs have a long history of being used for their medicinal benefits and two of the most well known are Garlic and Basil. Fast forward to today and you'll find them being used to improve the flavour of our food and also as ingredients in essential oils and perfumes. Here are 10 ways to get the most from herbs.
When you steep herbs in oil they are great as a salad dressing, marinade and in stir frying. The boost to the flavours of your dish is huge. The best and most popular is Olive Oil but Sunflower Oil is great another option. Steeping involves adding one or more of your favourite herbs to the oil and leaving for around a month. Put the oil through a sieve and then into a bottle. Basil is perfect for this and is a staple ingredient in Italian Cooking. Rosemary, fennel and garlic are excellent choices also.
A small parcel of herbs that you can put in stock, stews or casseroles and you remove it just before you serve the dish. Making one is simple, grab a couple of sprigs of parsley, thyme and bay leaf and tie it all together with some string. Feel free to more herbs to your liking. Add it to your ingredients and take out once the cooking is finished. If the herbs you are using are dried then you need to place them in muslin bag and tie it off.
A simple way to add flavour to your food that can be stored in the fridge and used when needed. Herb butter is a mix of butter and finely chopped herbs. Herbs that have strong flavours work best such as garlic, chives, rosemary, thyme or sage. Parsley has a mild taste but mixed with butter it's a great accompaniment to a fish dish. Mix together a tablespoon of herbs with 4oz/100g of softened butter and beat until combined. Using either a mould or roll it between greaseproof paper to the desired shape. Then place in the fridge until firm. Once set, you can either slice pieces of the roll or serve it right from the mould. Cream cheese can be used as an alternative to butter. This is a delicious spread on sandwiches.
Herb sachets are excellent gifts that can be placed in drawers and cupboards to keep clothes smelling fresh and clean. The most common ingredient in a sachet you'll see is Lavender. It has a great reputation to help with relaxation and assist sleeping. Tuck a sachet under your pillow and enjoy a great night's sleep.
The market has a plethora of brands and chamomile is particularly well known for it's relaxing properties. Making your own tea is straightforward. By steeping the leaves and also the flowers in hot water it makes a drink known as a tisane. The two most popular for this are Mint and Chamomile. To make this drink, fresh or frozen rather than dried herbs are best. Pour boiling water over the leaves and leave to stand for 5-15 minutes. A ratio of 3 teaspoons of chopped fresh herbs to one cup of water will give best results.
With similarities to a herb oil the vinegar can be made simply and add another level of flavour to your dishes. You can use more than one kind of herb at a time. Step one is to lightly crush the herbs and put in a jar. Add to the jar 500ml of lukewarm white wine vinegar. Seal tightly and put in a warm place for 2-3 weeks and shake the jar occasionally. Pour the vinegar through a strainer and put in a bottle. A sprig or two of your selected herb is also added. Choices that are the most suitable for this recipe are dill, rosemary, bay, basil, mint and thyme.
Using Basil in a Pesto is one of most common you'll find. It has a variety of uses and is dead simple to make. Try it with steak, poultry, pizza, and of course in pasta. A blend of basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, pine nuts and olive oil and you have pesto. Some uses are for dipping breads, drizzled over dishes like mozzarella and parma ham, or as an ingredient in pasta dishes.
If you want to freshen a room then a mix of dried flowers, leaves or herbs will spread it's fragrance for a good length of time. Using flower petals from a rose will leave a lovely scent. Lavender is a popular choice in Pot-Pourri but many other herbs can be used. Fresh Lavender needs to be dried first. A warm place like an airing cupboard is perfect for a week or two. Place the dried lavender in a bowl to release it's lovely scent.
The flowers from herbs are great as decoration but add delicious flavour to salads and cold dishes. The purple chive flowers, the striking orange nasturtium flower, basil, thyme and pot marigold add flavour for the eyes as well as the mouth.
Mixing finely chopped herbs with milder flavours is another option. Combining three or more herbs, using parsley, chives, chervil and tarragon is best. You have the option of fresh or dried and adding it to an egg dish is perfect.
Herbs whether fresh or dried have a myriad of uses both in the kitchen as well as around the house. With a little imagination they will add an extra dimension in your home.